Summer shipping tips & tricks?

Malena Lopez-Maggi
@malena-lopez-maggi
05/05/10 02:24:59AM
13 posts

Hi all,

It's getting to be melting season again. Does anyone have any tips or tricks for keeping summer shipping effective and affordable?

I'm looking for insulated shipping supplies that ideally collapse down to save storage space. Is there a space age solution I should be aware of?

Also, are certain carriers better than others at handling perishables?

Any input is appreciated.

Thank you,

Malena

http://www.thexocolatebar.com

http://www.idreamofchocolates.com


updated by @malena-lopez-maggi: 04/09/15 04:02:52PM
Clay Gordon
@clay
05/07/10 06:41:26PM
1,680 posts

Malena -

All of the all-in-one options I have seen are either very bulky, expensive, or both.

Elsewhere I have posted that I use USPS and am quite happy with most aspects of using them except for the printing of labels - getting data out of the shopping cart into the label printing program. Free boxes and supplies help reduce cost to customers and the flat rate shipping options can be great bargains.

I leave it up to the customer - if they want tracking, guaranteed overnight or two-day delivery, then I give them the option of Fedex or UPS. I've seen all carriers fail, though none have failed me like UPS. My answer to the problem is set out below.

I purchase packing supplies in bulk and "prep" them and set up a packing mise en place just like I would prep for cooking. Making sure that everything is cut to the right size and in a convenient place before I begin packing is key to efficiency. And - you should always be looking for ways to increase efficiency. If it takes you an average of 5 minutes to pack a box, then the max number of packages one person can ship is 96 in eight hours. Cutting the time to four minutes means that one person can ship 120 boxes in eight hours. This might not seem important now, but the night before the last shipping day at Christmas time it can be crucial.

I have had great success shipping in all weather using the following techniques - even to Phoenix, AZ in August.

1) Make sure to tape all the seams of the box. All of them. This helps keep hot air out and cool air in. Not just the top and bottom center/long seams. You'll be taping the 4 edges and the two center seams.

2) Line the box with bubble wrap that is covered in mylar on both sides. This is what I use.Use one long piece across one dimension of the box, cutting it long enough to make sure it overlaps at the top. Use two shorter pieces across the other two sides of the box, cut long enough so that they tuck under the long piece.If you are going to be putting a gel pack (or two) inside the box, I wrap what I am shipping in the mylar bubble wrap. What this does is add an extra layer of insulation. It keep what's inside cool and protects it from potential condensation from the gel pack.

3) Make sure to use a box that is large enough you don't have to stuff it. Dead air space is an excellent insulator - you don't want your items to be touching the insulation lining the inside of the box. I use cornstarch peanuts to maintain separation between what I am shipping and the insides of the box.

4) I also use one square of kraft paper padding (sometimes split in two) inside the bubble wrap for extra cushioning and to absorb any moisture.

5) Make sure the product itself is cool. If it's stored at 54F it will take longer to get to melt point than if you ship it from 68-72F. When I was working with Vintage and selling Cluizel, we were shipping from 34F - it gave us an extra day; instead of 2-day we could do 3 and save the customer a lot of money. We also shipped in oversize boxes filled with peanuts with the product in the center of the box, and the product being shipped was wrapped in plastic bags to protect it from condensation.

6) Make sure whoever receives the shipment has a place where it can be received that is out of the sun.

7) Make sure to get "Perishable" stickers and it doesn't hurt to add "This End Up" and/or "Fragile" stickers, too. These are simple and effective ways to get the attention of whoever is handling your box that it deserves special handling.

This may all seem like a lot of work. It is if you don't do it right. The key (as I said) is prep and organization. Spend a few moments to cut everything to size before you begin.

Make sure that the packing supplies are organized so that there is the minimum amount of moving to get to everything. These two simple things can make the whole difference. During peak holidays, I have been able to pack and ship (including USPS Click-and-Ship labels) 100 boxes a day all by myself. What I also did to make it work for me was to calculate how long it took to pack an order, start to finish and pay myself at least $15 hour to do this work.

I also calculated what the packing material costs were. I made this total the "handling" charge and added it to the cost shipping (which I passed through at cost). That way I was paying my labor to ship and make sure that the cost of packing materials was covered. It worked out to $3.50 per order to pay me (or someone else) to pack and deliver the boxes to the post office and cover the cost of packing supplies. I discounted this if/when it seemed appropriate.

Also - if you do use USPS, get to know your letter carrier and make sure to get to know the people on the loading dock at the post office you will use. They will tell you when the last truck out each night is. In my PO, the counter closes at 5:00 but the last Priority Mail truck leaves no earlier than 6:00 - and the Express Mail truck is slightly later. That extra time can make all the difference in the busy season.




--
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clay - http://www.thechocolatelife.com/clay/

updated by @clay: 05/25/18 12:29:51PM
Carlos Eichenberger
@carlos-eichenberger
05/07/10 07:11:06PM
158 posts
This is the best warm-weather shipping primer I've ever read. Kudos!
Malena Lopez-Maggi
@malena-lopez-maggi
05/07/10 08:00:58PM
13 posts
Thank you for the in-depth response, Clay! Very helpful and informative. I agree that organization is key; I don't have much space at my shop for storing shipping supplies, so sometimes I have to drive all the way to my house (a 20 minute commute) to complete an order. It can take half a day to mail one package!!!
Clay Gordon
@clay
05/07/10 09:08:20PM
1,680 posts
If I get the time over the next few days I will take some pictures of my shipping area plus shots of how boxes are lined and add them.


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clay - http://www.thechocolatelife.com/clay/
Ilana
@ilana
05/08/10 02:06:48AM
97 posts
thank you.
Chocomize
@chocomize
05/11/10 09:34:58AM
4 posts
What type of ice packs do you use? Where can they be purchased? Thanks for your help
Clay Gordon
@clay
05/11/10 10:30:34AM
1,680 posts

There are many sources for ice/gel packs. One approach is to consolidate all your shipping/packing supplies from one vendor (where possible) to be able to take advantage of shipping breaks. I purchase most of my supplies from ULine, mainly because I get overnight shipping for the price of ground (UPS) because of how close I am to one of their warehouses.

These temperature indicators are pretty cool (pun intended) - they let you know what temp the package reached during shipping. This company (Cold Ice) also sells gel packs.

Dry gel sheets are a VERY interesting (might seem slightly pricy up front but see the end of this paragraph for the savings potential) alternative, especially when you are space-constrained. You buy them dry, cut them to size (they look a lot like raviolis), soak them in water, then freeze them. One advantage of these is that they can bend to conform to the product - or the box - being shipped. You can also mix/match as you need. The alternative would be to buy a mix of sizes of already hydrated gel packs and inventory them - as well as have freezer space for them.

On closer examination buying the gel packs dry could save a lot of money on shipping AND reduce carbon footprint through reduced shipping weight to you. A roll of nearly 8000 cells (the equivalent of nearly 1400 pounds of wet gel packs) weighs 32 pounds dry. So while a roll costs nearly $300 (ouch), you are not paying to ship nearly 3/4 ton of water. Not paying to ship 3/4 ton water has to save you a lot of money while reducing the carbon footprint associated with shipping that 3/4 ton of water to you.




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clay - http://www.thechocolatelife.com/clay/

updated by @clay: 05/25/18 12:25:12PM
Carlos Eichenberger
@carlos-eichenberger
05/11/10 10:58:35AM
158 posts
I've used these dry gel packs from Cameron and they are excellent. In fact, save for recycled gelpacks these are all I use. When used in conjunction with a well-insulated box, these will arrive still frozen at their destination, using Priority Mail as the shipping method.
Sirius Chocolate
@sirius-chocolate
06/20/10 04:39:30PM
10 posts
Holy smokes, this is invaluable insight!
Andy Ciordia
@andy-ciordia
03/04/11 08:59:38AM
157 posts

Clay asked that I repost this from his LinkedIn group. My father is a retired a doctor and he gave me this idea, save money by asking the hospitals or pharmacies for their cold packs.

Pharmaceuticals are nearly all shipped cold, makes sense. What doesn't is that I have yet to find a pharma or hospital that has a good disposal practice. These centers will get in a crate of products, packed with 8-12oz cold packs--the same ones you buy, but they just trash them when done.

I asked one specialist if he would mind keeping a box of mine in his back office and when they got in shipments to just throw the icepacks in my box. They have no problem with this and now probably have enough ice for the next two years. I supply the office with some goodies as thanks and send the Dr. a few goodies for the family and everyone is very supportive.

So if you're looking for a very cheap way to get your hands on a lot of ice, strike up a conversation with your pharmacist or a Dr. you see regularly and I'll bet you'll have a mountain of ice packs you can have access too. Not to mention it feels like we're recycling a bit further instead of just adding more to the landfill.

Yvonne Janowski
@yvonne-janowski
03/05/11 11:14:19AM
3 posts
Thanks so much Clay for this super informative post on shipping. You have answered all my questions in-depth and some I didn't even know I had.
Carlos Eichenberger
@carlos-eichenberger
03/05/11 01:53:48PM
158 posts
Great tip!!! I personally know the owners of two pharma distribution companies, will offer to trade them for chcocolate!
Clay Gordon
@clay
03/05/11 09:26:35PM
1,680 posts
Take a look at these nice replacements for styrofoam inserts.


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clay - http://www.thechocolatelife.com/clay/
Melanie Boudar
@melanie-boudar
06/28/11 04:17:43AM
104 posts
we cant ship in styrofoam coolers or liners, the cost is prohibitive. pharmecueticals are shipped to veterinarians though, so we recycle their boxes.gel ice is readily available on fishing pier/ marine supply stores though, only $8.00 for 24 1/2 lb blocks at the dock.
antonino allegra
@antonino-allegra
06/28/11 04:42:05PM
143 posts

HI,

i have been told of plastic bottle filled only half way with water/salt solution and then frozen.

inside the box with the chocolate insulated to prevent condensation..

Does anyone know if it works? could be an alternative to gel pack?

Jennifer Thamer
@jennifer-thamer
06/29/11 12:13:19AM
15 posts

Uline also carries the insulated bags. I've started getting the rolls though and making my own to fit the right size. It's much less expensive that way. You can also find mini cold gel packs. They stay cold longer than the ice and condensate much less. If you're able to spend a little extra, you can find ice packs that don't condensate at all (same ones used for pharmaceuticals). Once when I sent lots of product to a very hot place, I made a styrofoam "box" from styrofoam sheets at Home Depot. It worked really really well with the ice packs.

Lydia Olsen
@lydia-olsen
08/11/11 03:18:01PM
3 posts
I just had something melt going to Ca in 2 days. Never happened before but it has been really hot here in Atl and Ca. Do you use special insulated boxes or regular ones? any guidelines on how many gel packs to use, it was a small 6x6x6 box so I only used one. I will get the insulated bubble roll, never seen it before. Thanks Lydia
Clay Gordon
@clay
08/11/11 06:23:47PM
1,680 posts

A 6x6x6 box might be large enough, if you were shipping something very, very small and it was well insulated. "Empty" space in a box is insulation and so it's always better to go larger than smaller when there is any question of it making it through.

As for how many gel packs it depends on how big they are. One 4- or 8-ounce pack is not nearly enough for 2-day delivery in hot weather from Atlanta to California, especially if there is no insulation in the box. Try it yourself, put a gel pack in an empty box and leave it outside when it's hot and time how long it takes to melt. A couple of hours, maybe, even for big ones.

Insulation serves two purposes: keep heat out, keep cold in. There are many forms of insulation: the insulated bubble wrap is one I happen to use and like. I also recycle polystyrene sheets from shipments I receive.

Tape up the seams of the box to keep hot air out (and cold air in).

Line the box with the insulating bubble wrap. Make sure it covers all six sides completely. Use cornstarch peanuts (or similar) to fill the empty space in the box - bottom and top as well as sides. I like the cornstarch because they will absorb some humidity.

I'd recommend at least two gel packs, taking care to make sure they weren't all on the same side of the box (i.e., one on top and one the bottom, front/back, left/right).

Make sure the packs don't actually touch the container with the chocolate in it.




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clay - http://www.thechocolatelife.com/clay/
Terry Kelleher
@terry-kelleher
02/16/12 11:48:14AM
2 posts

I am starting some early planning for the Summer 2012, and this writeup was a big help.

We have been using a insulated pack system from RNC Industries. They make a biodegradable two piece pad set and have many standard sizes including pads for the USPS Priority Mail Medium and Large Flat Rate boxes.

Control Temp Blue.

Potomac Chocolate
@ben-rasmussen
02/16/12 01:33:52PM
191 posts

I received some chocolate shipped in some of these and was very impressed with it. Can you give an idea of what the pricing is like?


updated by @ben-rasmussen: 09/11/15 06:08:04PM
Terry Kelleher
@terry-kelleher
02/16/12 01:45:14PM
2 posts

Wholesale pricing last year for the Medium Flat Rate box (11x8.5x5.5) was $3.34. The Large Flat rate box pad set was $4.66. I think their minimum qty for wholesale was 25 sets.

Devika Chopra
@devika-chopra
06/20/12 08:33:38AM
9 posts

Dear Clay

Thank you for the wonderful insight, I am planning to start deliveries in India ( where the weather is mostly extreme ). Could you be kind enough to post a photo of the packaging- how it looks and where the dry ice fits. It will really be of great help. Thank you so much

Clay Gordon
@clay
06/20/12 11:30:19AM
1,680 posts

Devika -

I would be happy to, except I don't ship chocolate any more and I don't have the supplies to build up a box. I should be able to do something in the next couple of weeks as I am getting a roll of insulation that I can use.




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clay - http://www.thechocolatelife.com/clay/
Devika Chopra
@devika-chopra
06/20/12 11:33:48AM
9 posts

That will be great Clay! I can wait - my email id is devika.kandhari@gmail.com. Or you could just post it here so that everyone can benefit.

Sam2
@sam2
06/22/12 03:41:19PM
24 posts

Hi! Clay!

Can you please clear this

and the product being shipped was wrapped in plastic bags to protect it from condensation.

Sam2
@sam2
06/22/12 03:46:11PM
24 posts

Is styrofoam box a good option instead of insulator bubble wrap or inserting thermocols on sides / tops / bottom serves the purpose?

Clay Gordon
@clay
06/27/12 11:16:26AM
1,680 posts

Clear == clarify?

When I was working with the US distributor for Cluizel, everything was kept in a cold storage facility at about 34F (1C). The packing was done in the same room the chocolate was stored in. Once the box was taped and foam peanuts were poured in, the chocolate to be shipped was wrapped in one or more plastic bags before being put into the boxes. Gel packs (if needed) were added to the box and the empty space was filled with more peanuts.

The plastic bags prevented any condensation that formed from wetting the boxes the chocolate was in.




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clay - http://www.thechocolatelife.com/clay/
Ryan
@ryan
09/05/12 03:58:33PM
5 posts

Old newspaper print or heavy Kraft paper is an excellent and cheap way to provide extra insulation inside of the mailing carton. Freezing the product prior to putting it in the shipping carton also helps. And if there is time prior to pick-up time put the whole package into freezer. This will extend the time that the package will be below point of melting. All shipping trucks and mail cars are metal boxes just like a convection oven (frozen items take longer to cook than refrigerated or room temp).

Colin Green
@colin-green
02/04/13 05:44:52PM
84 posts

Here in Sydney we have had some really hot weather of late (some really cold days with a lot of rain too - pretty weird really).

Of course I want to be able to mail chocolate out and don't want people put off buying! So with this thread in mind I wrote up what I actually DO when I mail chocolate and made it into a page on my web site.

As The Chocolate Life members in the US and Europe are now heading towards warmer weather again (yes - really - even if looking at snow doesn't bring "hot" to mind yet) some of you might be able to use this, and now is surely a good idea to get ready!

Hope this is useful to some of you!

www.captaincoffee.com.au/delivery-info/hot-weather-shipping.shtml

Colin

Clay Gordon
@clay
02/06/13 09:58:39AM
1,680 posts

Colin:

Thanks for the link. Helpful tips many people can learn from and use.




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clay - http://www.thechocolatelife.com/clay/
Scott Moore Jr
@scott-moore-jr
06/07/13 05:26:30PM
5 posts

Does anyone have experience with Thermo Pod? http://www.thermopod[.]net/ < now apparently out of business.

Their insulating material is reclaimed cotton fiber. It's bound by a polymer that is solid outside and perforated inside so the cotton can wick any moisture that may occur. Thicknesses from 3/4" - 1 1/2". The gentleman told me also that Koolit and Polarpak (600 series) were superior gel packs in testing they conducted. The cooling longevity for a 1 pound gel pack is nearly twice as long as 2 8 oz gel packs. Total mass of the gel and surface area for warm air to radiate heat inward makes the difference. Makes sense when you think about it. Don't have pricing as of yet and their products are not off the shelf. They are made to order with a 2 week lead time. It's supposed to be 100 here next Thursday so its time to get our coolness on. We've been using second hand foam coolers from a twitter follower who works at the Medical Center. Those insulated containers were headed for the dumpster anyways, so it's nice to get another use out of them. You just have to tape over the BIOHAZARD stickers if you don't want to disturb the client. The supply of these is no longer enough for us so its time to find another solution.

Scott Moore Jr
@scott-moore-jr
06/07/13 05:58:43PM
5 posts

Did a little longevity comparison on two one pound gel packs. The one that is thicker with a smaller width and length footprint remained cooler. Less surface area for hot air to radiate inward makes a difference. It might be worth paying attention the dimensions and lean towards thicker packs with the same weight. Here is a link if it will work.

vine.co/v/bL1UrJUgaE3 < link no longer works

Justin Schaffer
@justin-schaffer
06/11/13 04:50:14PM
6 posts

Another Idea for an insulated bag are these little lunch coolers...https://www.halo.com/custom-personalized-bags/personalized-lunch-bags.aspx

As a bonus you can put your logo on them for further marketing. Simple pack the cooler in peanuts and put your ice packs inside the cooler with your chocolate!!

Just another way to combine marketing with the expensive shipping cost...

Justin

Colin Green
@colin-green
06/11/13 06:34:42PM
84 posts

These look really good. They may have other issues though depending on where you live. I am in Australia and Australia Post is incredibly expensive AND they weigh pretty much everything. Hence I have to watch every gram (ounce?). A 500gm (about a pound) prepaid satchel is $8:25 normal post or $9.55 "Express Post") and the next size up (no pack options in the middle) is 3Kg (about 6.6 pounds). If they catch you out there is an "administration fee" plus the extra to pay. Hence cooling gels are pretty much out of the question for smaller items.

Colin

Brad Churchill
@brad-churchill
06/12/13 01:43:12AM
527 posts

Does anybody else findScott Moore's first Fridaypost incredibly disturbing???

My little inside voice is screaming "A guy has to be a real special kind of stupid to take styrofoam coolers used to transport biologically hazardous products to an from a medical facility - coolers that were destined for the dump FOR A REASON - package their customer's food into it and ship it to them."

Are you kidding me?

Wouldn't YOU just love to get your order of chocolates shipped in a container like this?????

WOW WOW WOW....

Scott Moore Jr
@scott-moore-jr
06/12/13 08:21:04AM
5 posts

i especially like the containers that shipped hearts for transplants. fits right in with our valentines gift theme.

maybe you'd like to have a heart, i'll bump you up on the priority list.

these are little coolers that were used to ship packaged meds you jack wagon.

i was kidding about the stickers.

go have a donut already.

Brad Churchill
@brad-churchill
06/12/13 10:48:06AM
527 posts

Call me all the names in the world you want. I'm not the jack wagon using medical industry trash to package my customer orders, and if I did I certainly wouldn'tpublicly advertise thatI did regardless of whether it had stickers or not!

I LOVE donuts, but please don't send me any.

Clay Gordon
@clay
06/28/13 06:06:50PM
1,680 posts

Justin -

This is a very good idea and one I never thought of before. It's a way to give customers a reason to remember you by giving them something they can reuse. Prices are a little high for many items until you get into the thousands of pieces, but when you consider the cost (and no recyclability) of polystyrene foam inserts I think that things really balance out.

:: Clay




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clay - http://www.thechocolatelife.com/clay/
Brian Begun
@brian-begun
10/25/13 12:09:03PM
20 posts

I'd like to add a little something to the hot weather shipping conversation. I'm not quite at the stage to do shipping (especially hot weather), and this thread is extremely valuable for it's tips and tricks (thanks all!).

Anyway, here's my little tip in regards to worrying about condensation and the chocolate with using any kind of cold pack. If you add a small dessicant dry-pack (they come in all sizes / a bunch are available on Amazon, just get one that is about the volume of your shipping box), and throw it in there, they do a great job of absorbing moisture, and could reduce if not eliminate any possible moisture build up from the cold pack as it warms up. Also, if you buy in bulk, the unit price is quite reasonable. I use dry packs in all my air-tight storage containers for the chocolate, and for any molded chocolate I finished setting, and they do a great job of keeping the moisture away.

Hope this helps. :-)

Daniel Herskovic
@daniel-herskovic
05/25/14 11:22:51AM
132 posts

We sell our chocolate bars wholesale to stores across the country. Shipping costs are a sensitive issue for a lot of stores. I've ordered excellent shipping containers from a company specializing in warm weather shipping materials. The containers (which can hold 130 of our bars) cost $15. Then the cost to ship them to me is almost $10 per box because they take up so much empty air space. Passing along $25 in a container fees is rarely an option. A few days ago I noticed disposable Styrofoam coolers with a lid for sale at the local grocery store. They cost $3.50 each. They stack up really well. Also, I don't have to pay expensive shipping costs to get it to me. I plan on putting our bars in one of these coolers than taping the lid shut. I will then put this cooler in a corrugated box and ship out.The quality of these coolers is not perfect, but with some added ice packs I think they just might do the job.


updated by @daniel-herskovic: 06/18/15 11:25:22AM

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